It’s been a while since Capcom’s been in good shape in terms of their software lineup.
They adapted to HD console development remarkably well for a Japanese company early in the last console generation, with titles like Dead Rising, Lost Planet, Street Fighter IV, Devil May Cry 4, and Resident Evil 5 finding a good audience. But it was shortly after this that they started losing facets of their fanbase thanks to a slow-but-steady reduction in quality software. While some titles were mostly well-received late in the last console gen, like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Dragon’s Dogma, games like DmC: Devil May Cry received mixed impressions, while others like Resident Evil 6 and Street Fighter x Tekken were critically maligned.
That’s also not even getting into what happened with Mega Man fans, as the company took their bitter feud with former producer Keiji Inafune out on the franchise he was most connected to.
In the shift to the current console generation, those who remember Capcom’s glory days were hoping they’d give the company’s software development a soft reboot. Deep Down was taken as an encouraging sign of what was to come, a game that was being designed on the company’s new graphics engine in Panta Rhei. Street Fighter V was another, which looked like a generational leap over its predecessor.
This wish didn’t pan out due to multiple factors. Deep Down ran into severe development issues, and has since gone MIA for nearly three years; it’s a mystery as to whether it will ever resurface, let alone release. Though the core game of SFV was good, the launch was a mess, and it never recovered in terms of sales. However, Capcom is at least continuing to update the game with content on an intermittent basis. Meanwhile, their handheld lineup has been scaled down to focus almost entirely on Monster Hunter and Ace Attorney games.
In recent years, Capcom’s become extremely hesitant to take risks, as seen with how they’ve heavily relied on ostensibly surefire hits. The best piece of current evidence for this is their Tokyo Game Show lineup, which is the most underwhelming lineup they’ve assembled. The only new games on the list are Monster Hunter: World, a console mainline (though non-numbered) Monster Hunter game announced at E3 in June, and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (which released the week of TGS). The rest of the list consists of ports like Resident Evil Revelations 1 & 2 for Switch (counted as two games to pad out the list), Resident Evil 7: biohazard Gold Edition, Dead Rising 4: Frank’s Big Package for PS4, and Monster Hunter Stories Ver. 1.2 Renewal Edition for 3DS.
I used the words “ostensibly surefire hits” in the above paragraph because that hasn’t panned out all the time. There’s the SFV example explained above, but a bigger recent example is Dead Rising 4. Capcom expected to sell two million copies by the end of the fiscal year that concluded on March 31st, 2017. Unfortunately, it didn’t even make it to one million. The sales disappointment was partly due to increased competition, as Dead Rising 3 released on Xbox One at launch while DR4 arrived three years later. But a bigger issue was how many longtime Dead Rising fans didn’t like the changes Capcom made, like the increased focus on action and destruction over micromanagement and time management. They also weren’t fans of protagonist Frank West’s new voice actor.
While companies never openly list games they intend to announce on these schedules, and there’s potential for Capcom to announce a title or two, it’s still a sad list. It’s a representation of how safe and rudderless they’ve become in the last few years, especially after ending plans to outsource games to other companies since they found it harder to control their development environments for quality reasons.
For now, the biggest saving grace is their line of remasters. Capcom realized there was a significant market for them after Resident Evil (Remake) HD Remaster sold well, and they’ve since become a large part of their schedule. Since discovering this, they’ve remastered titles like DmC, Devil May Cry 4 (both with extra features), and every Resident Evil game they could. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen will be the next one, which will release in early October, and it’s one of the most anticipated remasters thanks to the game being overlooked when it released during the last console gen.
Capcom’s still capable of making quality projects, like Resident Evil 7, and it seems they’re putting a significant amount of effort into Monster Hunter: World. But there’s no way to tell whether their output will ever be half as good as it used to be. Whether that happens will depend on whether they have a managerial shakeup, though they might be forced to do this if they have any more serious financial failures, or if someone purchases them.